US transgender basketballer hopes to inspire community

A transgender California woman has gained national attention and drawn criticism from some for being a transsexual that has played college basketball as both a man and a woman, but Gabrielle Ludwig has persevered through the hecklers’ comments hoping to serve as a role model for transgender youth.

“If they see me as a normal person and we are not the bogeyman and love life and raise kids just like you, maybe some of this mystery of who these people are will be taken away and there can be more blending into society,” the 50-year-old Ludwig told USA Today about her experience playing basketball for Mission College in Santa Clara, California.

The six-foot-six inch (198 cm), 220 pound (100 kg) Ludwig had sexual reassignment surgery over the summer and joined the junior women’s basketball team as a mid-season walk-on at the end of November.

The lifelong basketball lover has continued to play for the Mission College Lady Saints despite receiving harsh comments from some, including two ESPN radio co-hosts who received temporary suspensions for laughing on-air about Ludwig’s age, looks and referring to her as an "it".

After hearing some of the remarks, Ludwig offered to quit the team last week, because she didn’t want to be a distraction.

But her teammates, who refer to Ludwig as “Big Sexy” and “Princess,” said they wouldn’t play either if she decided to leave.

“We all love her,” teammate Amy Woo was quoted as saying about Ludwig, who she said brings a maternal influence to the team. “If someone is going to talk against her, they are talking against all of us because it’s like she is part of a family.”

Support for Ludwig, who is twice divorced and has three children, is apparently growing since her first game and the negative comments have begun to subside. She has also started to receive Facebook friend requests from opposing team members.

“I got exactly what I always wanted, just to fit in and be normal like everyone else,” Ludwig said, after scoring eight points in 11 minutes during her first home game last weekend.

First introduced to basketball when she was a seventh grade boy, Ludwig then began to play for her high school basketball team as Robert John Ludwig. The sports enthusiast last played college basketball in 1980 as a man, and her love for the sport returned when her daughter starting playing and Ludwig became her coach.

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